It was a typical evening in October 2013 when Pooja Trivedi, currently the Regional Marketing Program Manager for the Northern California Coastal Region, heard an unnerving sound coming from the den of her parent’s house. She was in the middle of cleaning the bathroom when she heard her younger brother, Atul Trivedi, coughing and gasping for air. As she ran out of the bathroom into the den, she witnessed a scene, for which her Red Cross first aid training had prepared her. Atul, bright red and sitting straight up on the sofa, was coughing and frantically trying to breathe at the same time. Pooja noticed the bag of candy corn and realized Atul must have been choking on some candy. Even though Atul was choking, he had remained calm--as calm as a choking person could be in this situation. Atul had signaled the “universal choking sign” with his hands around his neck, which allowed Pooja to realize what was happening before she even ran over to help.
With a cool and collected attitude, Pooja asked him to keep coughing as she walked him over to the bathroom and proceeded to apply stomach thrusts and back blows. She repeated them five or six times, and while performing back blows, she called 911 since no one else was home. “I tried to keep as calm as I could on the phone as I was talking to the dispatcher but inside, I was panicking in hopes that everything would be okay,” said Pooja.
Her abdominal thrusts became stronger and stronger--but just as the doorbell rang, the candy corn popped out, and so did a sigh of relief. Atul continued to spit out the remaining candy as Pooja ran downstairs to open the front door for the paramedics. They sat down with Atul and helped him to calm down, but the team of paramedics was extremely impressed with how Pooja and Atul had handled themselves in such a distressing situation.
Just that summer, Atul had attended the Leadership Development Center (LDC) at Santa Clara University, where he learned vital CPR and first-aid skills with other youth delegates. LDC is a camp organized by the Red Cross to cultivate core leadership skills, involve the youth in workshops such as disaster preparedness and search and rescue, and train delegates in using lifesaving techniques like CPR, First Aid, and AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Learning the skills that camp helped him understand what Pooja was doing when she was pounding his back or thrusting his stomach to dislodge the candy corn stuck in his throat.
“The most integral part of my Red Cross training was knowing how to react: helping Atul almost came second-nature to me.”
Pooja highly recommends that everyone be trained or retrained in first aid to refresh their memory. Not only does the process become second-nature in a stressful situation, but if both parties feel prepared --and not just the person performing first aid--the emergency can be handled calmly and efficiently.
“Everyone’s life is precious and a matter of seconds can change the norm. Being educated on how to respond to life-threatening incidents makes it easier to react and respond. I truly believe that since we both experienced this, we wouldn’t be hesitant to help someone in need of a situation like this,” shared Pooja.
To put it mildly, Pooja received quite a scare that night, but her Red Cross training made it possible to counteract her fear with focus.